Gender, equity and human rights

Gender, equity, human rights team newsletter 2018

March 2018

International Women's Day 2018, CSW62 & more!

Dear friends and colleagues,

Today more than ever before, we recognize the power of a woman’s voice. The recent #MeToo movement has created a space for reinvigorating dialogue and action to proactively address sexual violence and gender inequality. By speaking up, we are not only telling our stories, but also fighting for the rights of women all over the world, who not only need to be heard but empowered with information and education to make decisions about their own health. In other words, to achieve gender equality, we need to go beyond just listening to women; they must also be trusted.

A group of young African women

In his statement for this year’s International Women’s Day, Dr Tedros reminds us that gender equality must be at the core of universal health coverage. In order to guarantee #HealthForAll, women and girls – whether young or elderly, rich or poor, urban or rural, educated or illiterate – must be able to access health services equally.

In order to advance women's and girls’ right to health, they must also be empowered to participate in global health leadership and decision-making. Today, an experienced, diverse group of women make up Dr Tedros’ senior cabinet, and efforts are being made to increase representation of women in senior management in regional and country offices.

To this end, we are proud that WHO has been named one of the world’s high performing global health organizations on advancing gender equality. The Global Health 50/50 report which launched today, the first of its kind in global health, encompasses 7 domains across 140 global health organisations – and reviewed gender both in terms of programmatic focus and workplace/career equality.

But gender equality is about more than reaching 50/50. Transactional styles of leadership – merely appointing positions of authority, directing and awaiting results – must shift to enabling transformative leadership in which relationships and participation take precedent. Only then will gender equality unfold. As leaders in global health, we must inspire change reflected in characteristics that are archetypically female. We must apply an ethic of empathy, compassion and of caring to accompanying a morality of rights.


62nd session of CSW Banner


WHO will be a present force at this year's 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, where the Organization will be co-sponsoring side events on subjects as diverse as empowering rural women, NCDs, and addressing violence against adolescent girls.


37th Session of the Human Rights Council


WHO is engaging more and more with the Human Rights Council, and the 37th session saw discussions on attacks on healthcare, zero discrimination in health care, and mental health.


Corruption in the health sector drives health inequities and violations of the right to health, and burdens disadvantaged populations the most. Taking steps to enhance transparency and accountability in health systems is fundamental to ensure that truly no one is to be left behind, prevent wastage and leakage in the health sector, and enhance performance of reforms towards UHC. An initial expert workshop will be held on 22 – 23 March at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to strengthen the focus on anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in health system assessments and in health planning processes.


"WHO will strengthen its public voice - based on science and evidence.
WHO will speak up against practices from any sector including industry that, based on evidence, are harmful to health.
WHO will be at the forefront of advocating for the right to health in order to achieve the highest attainable standard of health for all.“
Extracted from the draft WHO thirteenth general programme of work 2019-2023

Moving forward, we are proud that gender, equity and human rights are now considered as strategic and measurable impact measures in the 13th General Programme of Work (GPW) which was endorsed by the Executive Board earlier this year. This is quite a transformation from the 12th GPW. We hope you continue to follow the work of WHO’s Gender, Equity and Human Rights team by visiting our website and following me on Twitter @VeronicaMagar.

Warm regards,

Veronica Magar Team Leader - Gender, Equity, Human Rights World Health Organization